I was very disappointed the other day when I'll Have Another was scratched from the Belmont Stakes, guaranteeing that the drought between Triple Crown winners would go on another year.
But today is a Triple Crown anniversary that may offer the tiniest bit of hope for horse racing enthusiasts that it may end soon.
Seattle Slew capped the 1977 Triple Crown race series 35 years ago today with a four–length win in the Belmont Stakes.
There was no doubt about it. Seattle Slew was a great horse, so great that Blood Horse magazine ranked him ninth in its list of the Top 100 horses of the 20th century — ahead of all but two of the other Triple Crown winners.
Seattle Slew was the first horse to win the Triple Crown while undefeated, and he remains the only horse to accomplish that feat.
But sometimes he seems to get overlooked, perhaps because he came along in a decade that had two other Triple Crown winners — and might well have had more. After all, Canonero II (1971) and Spectacular Bid (1979) both went into the Belmont Stakes with a chance to win a Triple Crown but came up short.
Obviously, Seattle Slew did not come up short in the Belmont.
It would have been wonderful if we could have seen a Triple Crown winner this year. The Triple Crown has always been a rare achievement. The horse that ends the currently 34–year drought since the last one — and make no mistake about it, I do believe it will end someday — may well be appreciated more than most because the wait has been so long.
If I'll Have Another had not been scratched but had lost the Belmont, racing fans probably would have had some wistful thoughts about what might have been, and there would have been a palpable sense of loss — but nothing like what descended upon the world of horse racing on Friday.
At least he would have made the attempt.
And it might have kicked off a wave of nostalgia for those '70s horses — Secretariat, Affirmed and the one that won the Triple Crown 35 years ago today, Seattle Slew.